A person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a
profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation
Entrepreneur is starting a business while intraprenuer is developing a new product in an already
At some point an entrepreneurial venture reaches the point of being an established business.
What that point is arguable. Some definitions specify a certain dollar sales for a certain length of
time, others say that once the growth rate has leveled off, a business is no longer in its
entrepreneurial stage. While reaching a point of "being there" is an achievement, a real concern
for most businesses is that somehow becoming an established business means that the
entrepreneurial spirit has been lost. Hence, the growth of intrapreneurship - fostering
entrepreneurism within established organizations. Intrapreneurship was a concept here to stay.
A classic case of intrapreneurs is that of the founders of Adobe, John Warnock and Charles
Geschke. They both were employees of Xerox. As employees of Xerox, they were frustrated
because their new product ideas were not encouraged. They quit Xerox in the early 1980s to
begin their own business. Currently, Adobe has an annual turnover of over $3 billion.
In 1992, The American Heritage Dictionary brought intrapreneurism into the main stream by
adding intrapreneur to its dictionary, defining it as "a person within a large corporation who
takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive
risk-taking and innovation".
“A person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a
profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation. ” - dictionary.com
History of Intrapreneurship
In an article in The Economist in 1976, Norman Macrae predicted a number of trends in business
- one of them being "that dynamic corporations of the future should simultaneously be trying
alternative ways of doing things in competition within themselves". In 1982, he revisited those
thoughts in another Economist article, noting that this trend had resulted in confederations of
intrapreneurs. He suggested that firms should not be paying people for attendance, but should be
paying competing groups for modules of work done. One suggestion was to set up a number of
typing pools contracted for a certain amount of work over a certain time period for a lump sum.
The members of the pool would be responsible for apportioning work, setting pay, setting work
hours or even whether to subcontract out part of the work. Applied across the business spectrum
such groups would provide the intrapreneurial competition he envisioned.
During the same time frame, Gifford and Elizabeth Pinchot were developing their concept of
intra-corporate entrepreneur. They coined the word intraprenuer giving credit for their thinking
to the 1976 article by Macrae. Under their model a person wishing to develop an intrapreneurial
project would initially have to risk something of value to themselves - a portion of their salary,
for instance. The intraprenuer could then sell the completed project for both cash bonuses and
intra-capital which could be used to develop future projects. Based on the success of some of the
early trials of their methods in Sweden they began a school for intraprenuer and in 1985 they
published their first book, Intrapreneuring, combining the findings from their research and
By 1986 John Naisbett was citing intrapreneurship as a way for established businesses to find
new markets and new products in his out-of-print book, " Re-Inventing the Corporation" and
Steve Jobs was describing the development of the Macintosh computer as an intrapreneurial
venture within Apple. The concept was established enough that in 1990 Rosabeth Moss Kanter
of Harvard Business School discussed in her book, " When Giants Learn to Dance", the need for
intrepreneurial development as a key factor in ensuring the survival of the company.
Differences between Intra and Intraprenuer
“The Intraprenuer acts within the confines of an existing organization. The dictates of most
organizations would be that the Intraprenuer should ask for permission before attempting to
create a desired future - in practice, the Intraprenuer is more inclined to act first and ask for
forgiveness than to ask for permission before acting.
The Intraprenuer is also typically the intra-organizational revolutionary - challenging the status
quo and fighting to change the system from within. This ordinarily creates a certain amount of
organizational friction. A healthy dose of mutual respect is required in order to ensure that such
friction can be positively channeled.” - chrisfoxinc.com
So my conclusion to the meaning of an intrapreneur can either be someone who operates like a
entrepreneur, but he has the backing of an organization or is an entrepreneur with his business
maturing into a better organization.
For the intrapreneurial employee, advice abounds. They are advised to be courageous, moderate
risk takers, frugal, flexible, and creative about their pathway. Their task is to put together a team
of enthusiastic volunteers, build a network of sponsors, and ask for advice before asking for
Gifford Pinchot's out-of print book " Intrapreneuring, Why You Don't Have to Leave the
Corporation to Become an Entrepreneur" provides 10 commandments for intrapreneurs:
1. Do any job needed to make your project work regardless of your job description.
2. Share credit wisely.
3. Remember, it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
4. Come to work each day willing to be fired.
5. Ask for advice before asking for resources.
6. Follow your intuition about people; build a team of the best.
7. Build a quiet coalition for your idea; early publicity triggers the corporate immune
8. Never bet on a race unless you are running in it.
9. Be true to your goals, but realistic about ways to achieve them.
10. Honor your sponsors.
Online forums that encourage new thinking have evolved with Fast Company and The
Intrapreneuring Cafe being among the favorites. Fast Company has the goal of chronicling the
changes under way in how companies create and compete, highlighting the new practices
shaping how work gets done, showcasing teams who are inventing the future and reinventing
business, and equipping the people exploring this uncharted territory with the tools, techniques,
models, and mind-sets they need. The Intrapreneuring Cafe, run by intrapreneur.com discusses a
variety of specific intrapreneurship issues such as what the best businesses are for
intrapreneurship and government agency intrapreneuring. They also run want ads for
Another direction intrapreneurship is growing is in developing scenarios to anticipate future
trends and responses. Scenarios are stories about possible futures which enable organizations to
learn, adapt and develop better strategies. Scenario planning begins by identifying the focal issue
or decision. There are an infinite number of stories that could be told about the future; the
purpose is to tell those that matter, that lead to better decisions. While scenarios to-date have
primarily been used for large scale planning efforts for such projects as education in the United
States, it is very applicable to the business environment today.
Challenges of the Intraprenuer
People generally know the qualities of a future leader. While other employees are not taking
actions that can make them outstanding and stand them out in the future they tend to resent the
intraprenuer who is taking it. As a result they may not give enough support, encouragement or
helping hand to the intraprenuer.
Intraprenuers, probably have to fight against ingrained, inbred, and inept management. That is
management resistance. This is probably true in some organizations but it's a matter of an
Another challenge is getting commitment to non-budgeted spending. The nature of large
organizations is that spending is tightly monitored. This challenge may be more rampant than the
cultural problem of management resistance, being a rational response to the need to avoid fraud
and irresponsible spending.
Human Resources Issues in Intrapreneurship
What has intrapreneurship meant in the reality of the business environment? The area of greatest
impact has been, of course, in human resources. Intrapreneurship has not just become a method
for revitalizing business processes, but of also revitalizing jobs.
In GTE's Information Systems Division that has paid off for the company and its employees
too. This program was actually developed by a former GTE employee, Anthony Spadafore, who
left GTE to form his own consultancy program, Pathfinders, which works towards developing
self-directed employees. Spadafore spent extensive counselling the volunteer employees in this
new way of thinking and working. From the initial group eight new projects were proposed and a
number of them funded. A number of employees have defined totally new career paths for
themselves. This program has totally redefined how GTE does business.
3M is another company that has reaped the rewards of intrapreneurism. 3M has a standard policy
that allows all employees to work on developing their own business ideas at least 15 percent of
the time they are at work. One of the big breakthroughs that came from this program was the
concept of Post-It-Notes which was pioneered by an employees that wanted something that
wouldn't fall out to mark pages in his hymn book at church.
One of the most exciting concepts in intrapreneurism is developing intrapreneurial competing
teams within a company. The organization can be organized around teams that function as small
businesses nested and networked together. These teams can be focused on a product such as a
new car, a process, such as public relation or a service, such as the secretarial services of the
organization. What evolves is a free market system with work coordinated more effectively and
responsibility distributed more widely.
The Intrapreneurial Organization
Intrapreneurs have been credited with increasing the speed and cost-effectiveness of technology
transfer from research and development to the marketplace. While intrapreneurs are sometimes
considered inventors, inventors come up with new products. Intrapreneurs come up with new
processes that get that product to market. Part of the reason they are considered similar to
inventors is that they are creative and are risk-takers in the sense that they are stepping out of
their traditional role within the business. However, their risk-taking behavior is personal. In
terms of the business, they actually work towards minimizing the risk through the innovative
approaches they use to more efficient and effective product production and sales.
Some methods that have been used by businesses to foster intrapreneurship are:
• Users of internal services are allowed to make their own choice of which internal vendor
they wish to use.
• Intrapreneurial employees are granted something akin to ownership rights in the internal
intraprises they create.
• Companywide involvement is encouraged by insisting on truth and honesty in marketing
and marketplace feedback.
• Intrapreneurial teams are treated as a profit center rather than a cost center(i.e, they are
responsible for their own bottom line). One way some companies handle this is for the
team to have their own internal bank account.
• Team members are allowed a variety of options in jobs, in innovation efforts, alliances,
• Employees are encouraged to develop through training programs.
• Internal enterprises have official standing in the organization.
• A system of contractual agreements between internal enterprises is defined and supported
by the organization.
• A system for settling disputes between internal enterprises and between employees and
enterprises is part of the intrapreneurship plan.
Intrapreneurism in business has evolved to encompass a variety of concepts: identifying and
fostering employees who have what a considered to be intrapreneurial traits, developing an
intrapreneurial process for part or all of a business, and developing innovation through rewarding